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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Court reinstates lawsuit over Mukwonago, Wisconsin Taser death

November 10, 2010
By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled the parents of a man who died after being Tasered by police in 2006 can proceed with their lawsuit against the officers and the village and town of Mukwonago.

Nickolos Cyrus, 29, died in July 2006 after officers fired a Taser at him repeatedly when he was trespassing at a home under construction. Cyrus, who suffered from mental illness, was known to officers from previous delusional episodes and had been reported missing.

The Waukesha County medical examiner later ruled that he died from cardiorespiratory failure, partly as the result of the multiple electronic shocks. An inquest jury in Waukesha County concluded the officers used reasonable force.

His family sued, claiming he had been subjected to excessive force. U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa granted summary judgment to the defendants in April 2009, finding that the force used by officers was reasonable.

In an opinion written by Judge Diane Sykes, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Randa and sent the case back for trial. The court ruled that key factual disputes under the Fourth Amendment -- like just how much of a danger Cyrus posed, and how many shocks were administered -- can't be resolved by summary judgment:

The evidence conflicts, most importantly, on how many times Cyrus was Tasered. Czarnecki testified that he deployed his Taser five or six times, and the autopsy report describes marks on Cyrus’s back consistent with roughly six Taser shocks. But the Taser’s internal computer registered twelve trigger pulls, suggesting that more than six shocks may have been used.

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